Continuing the blog serialisation of my popular X-Pro Series lust/hate/love story:
Part 30: The X-Pro2 Review: Why I Chose the X-Pro2
So… I bought the X-Pro2. Yes me, the guy with (probably*) the longest X-Pro1 review article on the internet!
(*OK, almost certainly)
I’m not that surprised! As you know I love the X-Pro1, and the X-Pro2 is surely just more of the same, right?
Well I wasn’t sure, to begin with I was sceptical; not sceptical that is was a good camera, no; sceptical that what made it a better camera would subtract from the apparent magic of the original.
It’s not I believe the slowness and quirkiness of the original X-Pro is what made it good, in actual fact I very clearly stated that “using a slow and quirky camera, just makes you good at using a slow and quirky camera” and also; “if in the course of using a slow and quirky camera, you slow down and take better pictures, then take the credit, you did that, not the camera” No. To me, the X-Pro1 is possessed of what might be akin to ‘mechanical grip’ namely the balance between the (original) lenses, the files and the technique of capturing them is just somehow right, somehow pleasing.
I wondered if the successor would have this charm… In much the same way as if one were to take a spirited small sports car; one with no traction control, but not that much power, but also not that much weight – in short a “drivers” car and inject another 80 horse power into it, what would happen? Would it go faster? Yes of course! Would it retain the grip, handling and fun of the original? No probably not.. It would almost certainly need a chassis upgrade, suspension improvement and driver aids in order to stay safe and fun. Once it has these upgrades then it no longer follows the original formulae, it deviates from the original dynamic and becomes something else.
This was my fear with the X-Pro2 (well that and finding the cold hard cash to pay for it :))
The true magic of the X-Pro1 is the files.
The main two reasons that I never gelled with the X-T1 are because the files were just a little too clean and clinical for MY tastes (and of course your tastes may be very different) and being EVF only, I felt very locked into working the way that the camera demanded, rather than having the flexibility to work how I wanted.
So to begin with I was a little sceptical about the IQ of the X-Pro2, I don’t mean that it would be no good! I mean that I wouldn’t like it as much. Early reports suggested a very similar pallet to the X-T1, but just with a bigger file size…
I’ve openly SPECULATED and written about why the X-Pro1 files look as they do!
The X-Pro1 files do look less digital, this MIGHT be because the original X-Trans sensor produces 12bit lossy RAFs, compared to 14bit lossless RAFs from the later sensors
My HUNCH is that because the X-Pro1 RAFs have less digital content, they (long story short) therefore look less digital, particularly in regards to the way they transition between highlight and shadow data.
Another POSSIBILITY is that X-Trans 2 features on chip PDAF pixels, which (PERHAPS) require different interpolation than the 100% CDAF of the X-Trans 1
Whatever the reason – the difference is there! So with even more PDAF pixels, 14bit lossless RAFs and about 30% more pixels, then surely the X-Pro2 sensor; the “X-Trans Pro” (or X-Trans III by any rational degree of nomenclature logic) would be MORE clinical and MORE clean, and LESS pleasing to MY eye?
Well actually – no.
But we’ll come to IQ later (and multiple times I’d imagine)
However, I will say this… I’d like to publically thank the multitude of review sites that offer RAW files to download. I downloaded a great many X-Pro2 RAFs and ran them through my workflow again and again before I even considered pulling out my credit card to buy the X-Pro2.
IQ might be the ultimate reason to purchase any camera… I’m NOT saying that IQ has to be the best in the market, or even best in class – but it does have to good enough for what you need it for. But there’s a lot, lot more to a camera than IQ… I’d almost say that IQ should be the given… If you eat in a fine restaurant, then you expect the food to taste great. It probably doesn’t enter your head that it won’t. What you’re interested in, (as well as the choice of dishes), is the presentation, the service, the décor, the ambiance.
And this was a very big USP of the original X-Pro, sure the service was a little slow 🙂 but the presentation, décor and ambiance were first class – in fact if you bought your X-Pro1 in the 2016 ‘fire’ sales then comparatively; you were pretty much getting Michelin star dinning for shopping mall restaurant money!
Don’t believe me?
In the UK, the X-Pro1 was released at a RRP of £1429.99 body only in March 2012.
In January 2016 you could have bought it with the XF18 and XF27 lenses for £499. (It was such a good deal I was actually sad that I already owned it :))
Anyway – I digress.
So what was it about the X-Pro2 that made me take a long hard look and pay cold hard cash to obtain it?
Well let’s start off with what it wasn’t!
Sure the X-Pro2 has many improvements that are tangible, improvements that once you sample them, you’ll be delighted you have them (like how you lived for many years without getting email on your phone, but now you need it)
The AF point joystick is a good example
Whatever meagre weather sealing the X-Pro2 has is a welcome additional
Dual card slots (although not to be underestimated in a commercially critical scenario)
Centre weighted metering
The ISO dial (actually I’m pretty ambivalent to this feature, so it shouldn’t be on any of my lists!)
But had these things been the sole improvements I doubt that I’d have bitten the hook.
No; what grabbed my attention and offers real benefit to the way I work, was the following:
Improved ISO – ok 12800 is a bit gnarly… but not any more than 6400 on the original, and 6400 on the X-Pro2 is PERHAPS a fraction better than 3200 on the X-Pro1
Improved Shutter – no I don’t mean the sound that so many reviewers have gotten misty eyed over. I mean another stop of mechanical shutter speed.
In short, the X-Pro2 offers me a stop more when it’s light and 1 stop more when it’s dark. That’s significant folks.
The ERF (Electronic Range Finder – aka when marketing name things, not engineers!!) OVFs are great, EVFs are extremely useful, both together you say? Yes please!
To be fair, to me the ERF isn’t a ‘leave it on all the time’ solution; it’s a bit too distracting, but when it’s called for its indispensable
The electronic shutter (ES), this opens up a whole new world of discrete photography, whilst adding of colossal bonus of monstrously fast shutter speeds of up to 1/32000 of a second. There’s some pitfalls in terms of using the ES for things that are moving quickly and certain types of lighting, but so what? I like fast lenses and I don’t always want to use an ND filter.
Acros, this new monochrome film simulation is superb in my opinion, either straight out of the camera or straight out of the camera with a few tweaks in post. You read some of my initial thoughts about Acros here
Lots more Fn buttons. I dislike menu diving.
So the X-Pro2 offered me the chance to take shots in more scenarios, with a new monochrome workflow and with less menu diving and a unique and special EFR feature.
But like I mentioned above… I just had to be sure about the IQ…
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